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Lawyer, Solicitor & Legal Profession Records (Occupations)

Nature of Source

Records from those that trained and worked in the legal profession. Solicitors and barristers both trained in law but have different roles. Solicitors advice clients of their legal rights and can specialise in a particular area such as probate whilst barristers acts as advocate for a client in a criminal or civil court of law.

A barrister had to become a member of one of the four Inns of Court, namely Middle Temple, Inner Temple, Lincoln’s Inn and Gray’s Inn. Examinations became compulsory in 1872 and women were permitted to apply to the bar in 1919. Each Inns of Court maintains its own library and archive. Middle Temple, Lincoln’s Inn and Gray’s Inn have published registers up to 1888, 1893 and 1944 respectively.

Consult directories for the whereabouts of solicitor and lawyer work places and newspapers for mentions of individuals. Most in the profession will be mentioned in the Law Lists which were published annually from 1775 to 1976 and will provide the name of the attorney, barrister or solicitor as well as the name and address of the firm worked for. In 1976 the Law Lists were replaced by the Solicitors' Diary which were then replaced in 1984 by the Law Society's Directory of Solicitors and Barristers. Scottish Law Lists have been published annually since 1848. Many barristers attended university which until the 1830s would have been Oxford or Cambridge. Justices of the Peace did not undergo any formal legal training but were selected mainly from the local gentry. Their appointments can be found at The National Archives in series C 202 and were also announced in the London Gazette.

The court admission books and registers will give the names and addresses of attorneys, solicitors and other court officials admitted to court. The books will also provide the name of the court and the date of admission.

Also see
Apprenticeship Agreements, Trade
Directories, Trade, Professional, Telephone & Street
Friendly & Fraternal Society Records
Guilds, Freedoms & Freemen's or Burgess Rolls
Occupational and Labour Records (Includes links and guidance on calculating historical wage rates and the cost of living)
University & College Records

Where Found

Law Society Library (The library holds historical records containing information about solicitors, articled clerks [trainees] and law firms. Specific resources include: The Law Lists, 1775-1976; History of firms, 1760s to 1980s approx; Lists of attornies and solicitors, 1729-1732; Roll of Solicitors on CD ROM, 1728-1858; Schofield's dictionary of legal biography,1845-1945)
Society of Genealogists (Law List from 1812; The Solicitors Index compiled by Brian Brooks from a number of sources excluding London, Middlesex, Sussex and Wales; Bristol Attorneys Index compiled by W.J Lyes; Cockerill Lawyers Index compiled by Tim Cockerill)
British Library (Resources include printed Law Lists)
Guildhall Library (Resources include printed Law Lists)
National Archives Library (Resources include printed Law Lists)

Period Covered

1729 - Onwards

Genealogical Value

Name, address, date of admission. Name and address of student’s parent.

Further References

Bland, Desmond Sparling. A Bibliography of the Inns of Court and Chancery: Seldon Society, 1965


Brooks, Brian and Herber, Mark. My Ancestor was a Lawyer: Society of Genealogists, 2006


Foss, Edward. Biographia Juridica: A Biographical Dictionary of the Judges of England, From the Conquest to the Present Time, 1066-1870: John Murray, 1870 (Available to view online at Google Books or to download at the Internet Archive)


Foster, Joseph. Men-At-The-Bar: A Biographical Hand-List of the Members of the Various Inns of Court: Including Her Majesty's Judges, Etc: Reeves and Turner, 1885 (Available to download at the Internet Archive)


Grant, Francis James. The Faculty of Advocates in Scotland, 1532-1943, with Genealogical Notes: Scottish Record Society, 1944


Sainty, John. The Judges of England, 1272-1990: Selden Society, 1993


Wade, Stephen. Tracing your Legal Ancestors: Pen and Sword Books, 2010


TNA Research Guide: Lawyers: further research

Websites (Information and guides on the legal profession and the Inns of Court) (TNA Guide: Looking for records of a lawyer) (FamilySearch Research Wiki: Lawyers in England and Wales) (Honourable Society of Gray's Inn) (The Honourable Society of Lincoln's Inn) (The Honourable Society of the Middle Temple) (The Honourable Society of the Inner Temple) (W.R.Douthwaite, "Gray's Inn: Its History and Associations", 1886) (Gray's Inn Pension Book vol 1, 1569-1800)  (Gray's Inn Pension Book vol 2, 1569-1800) (Gray's Inn Register of Admissions, 1521-1889, Together with the Register of Marriages in Gray’s Inn Chapel, 1695-1754) (Free download Record of service of solicitors and articled clerks with His Majesty's forces, 1914-1919) (Ancestry Message Boards: Occupations)

Online Databases (The Inner Temple Admissions Database, 1547-1920. The database covers admissions to the Inner Temple between 1547 and 1920. It may be searched without charge and individual entries can be printed out) (Calendars of Inner Temple Records 1505-1845.The calendars provide a social and administrative history of the Inn using the transcribed Acts of Parliament, Bench Table Orders, General Account and receipt books, admissions and Call records, and other documents relating to the governance of the Inn) (Articles of Clerkship, 1756-1874. This database contains records associated with articles of clerkship for young men apprenticed to attorneys for the years 1756–1874 extracted from records held at The National Archives) (England and Wales, Law List, 1843) (SoG Data Online: The Solicitors Index compiled by Brian Brooks from a number of sources excluding London, Middlesex, Sussex and Wales; Bristol Attorneys Index compiled by W.J Lyes; Cockerill Lawyers Index compiled by Tim Cockerill. Members of the Society of Genealogists are able to view these records for free via their existing membership. Non-members can carry out free surname searches but will need to join the society to view the full record details)

CD Roms

S & N Genealogy Supplies (Browne's General Law-List 1780: The Law List – 1856: The Solicitor's Diary, Almanac and Legal Directory 1900: Lincoln's Inn Admissions, 1420-1893. Also includes Christening, 1716-1806, Marriage, 1695-1754 and Burial, 1695-1852 records for the Lincoln's Inn Chapel: Record of Service of Solicitors and Articled Clerks 1914-1918)